‘New Year, New You’ – it’s a phrase that’s nearly impossible to avoid at this time of year. The beginning of a new year is synonymous with resolutions – plans to do things differently, to change our lives for the better, to make a fresh start. Of course, these changes can be valuable and life-giving. But, if you’re anything like me, there’s something about this frenetic rush towards self-improvement which can sometimes feel a little less motivational. I’m encouraged to narrow my focus to ‘me’ as an individual, to reflect on how I fall short of my own ambitions and to muster my will-power to do better. It’s a perspective that I sometimes find more claustrophobic than inspiring.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Rather than narrowing my focus this New Year, I want to ask God to expand my vision.
As the year changes and I reflect on the changes I may or may not make, I need to remember that I am accompanied by the God who does not change. ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever’ (Hebrews 13:8). God isn’t waiting for me to nail my resolutions and achieve my life goals before I can be welcomed or loved. Whatever fractures I see in my life, wherever I feel all too aware of my need for healing – all this is held within the eternal, unchanging truth of our preciousness to God. God is the one who took the initiative to reach out to us to restore relationship before we knew we needed it, because it is in God’s nature to love and to reconcile. My own story sits within this much bigger one.
What’s more, God is at work not only to renew us in the details of our individual lives, but also to bring healing and transformation across the whole of creation. In John’s vision recorded in Revelation, Jesus says: ‘See, I am making all things new’ (Revelation 21:5). In the flurry of personal New Year’s resolutions, I find it easy to lose sight of this broader horizon.
We have the opportunity to reimagine not only our personal stories but also how we are part of God’s bigger story in the world. Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote: “God places us in the world as his fellow workers – agents of transfiguration. We work with God so that injustice is transfigured into justice, so there will be more compassion and caring, that there will be more laughter and joy, that there will be more togetherness in God’s world.”
This moment in the year is a helpful reminder that the past does not need to define the future. I can ask the big questions about my community and society. Where are the signs of renewal in the place where I live? What could bring deeper hope? By putting these questions into words, and perhaps articulating them to others, we are igniting our curiosity about what God is doing and about what could be.
We aren’t expected to come up with all the answers – we can’t come up with them alone. We are sharing our questions, hopes and wonderings with God, inviting the Holy Spirit to be present and help us tune into God’s work of renewal and the possibilities which could open up.
As I step into this new year, I do so not alone but seeking to walk in God’s company, enfolded in Christ’s love, led by his Spirit. And I’m praying for God to liberate my imagination to see beyond the resolutions I make or break, to find the ‘us’ beyond the ‘me’.
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